Good morning and happy Juneteenth weekend. Here’s what you need to know in business and tech news for the week ahead. — Charlotte Cowles
What’s Up? (June 13-19)
Not Messing Around
Let the trustbusting begin! Lina Khan, who has long criticized the market dominance of Amazon, Facebook, Google and other Silicon Valley behemoths, is now in charge of regulating them after she became the youngest-ever chair of the Federal Trade Commission on Tuesday. The next day, the Justice Department filed its first antitrust lawsuit since President Biden took office. The action aims to block the merger of two of the country’s largest insurance brokers, Aon and Willis Towers Watson, and argues that their combination would “eliminate substantial head-to-head competition and likely lead to higher prices and less innovation.”
At the conclusion of his first summit with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, President Biden declared, “I did what I came to do.” Namely, he told Mr. Putin to cut out the cyberattacks that Russian crime organizations — and, in some cases, the Russian government — have been inflicting on American companies and agencies with increasing frequency. (Mr. Putin denied that Russia was behind the attacks, despite much evidence to the contrary.) Mr. Biden drew a line in the sand by stating that infrastructure was “off limits” to hackers during peacetime, and the pair agreed to discuss the matter further. Progress?
And just like that, the 17-year trade dispute between the United States and the European Union over aircraft subsidies was resolved — at least temporarily. The two sides agreed to suspend threats of punitive tariffs on each other, which the Trump administration had imposed over the past several years. Instead, they will work together to counter China’s looming dominance in major industries. Britain quickly followed in Europe’s footsteps with a similar deal with the United States. In other news, the E.U. lifted its travel ban on American tourists, although each member state retains the right to decide on its own restrictions.
What’s Next? (June 20-26)
Higher Rates Ahoy
At the beginning of the pandemic, the Federal Reserve slashed interest rates to near zero and indicated they could stay that low for years. That timeline could be moving up. Now, most Fed policymakers expect to make two interest rate increases by the end of 2023, a more aggressive plan that nods to recent inflation concerns. With prices rising on everything from homes to cars to clothing (and even boats), central bankers seem to be speeding up their predictions for the economy’s recovery and working to keep growth steady.
Daily Business Briefing
No More Angels
After a disastrous several years that resulted in the closing of hundreds of stores, a failed acquisition and the resignation of its scandal-plagued chief executive, Victoria’s Secret is doing a Hail Mary: a major rebrand. The once-ubiquitous lingerie company has dropped its previous marketing strategy of appealing to male fantasies of “sexy” women, embodied by the brand’s supermodel “Angels.” Instead, it will feature a more inclusive, diverse cast of seven women (the “VS Collective”) that includes Megan Rapinoe, the soccer star and gender equality advocate, and Priyanka Chopra Jonas, the Indian actor and tech investor. But will women buy it — or, more important for the company, the underwear it’s trying to sell?
Trouble at Lordstown
Lordstown Motors, a start-up automaker that took over a shuttered General Motors plant in Ohio, promised to develop electric trucks and bring back manufacturing jobs. Instead, its prototype truck burned down during testing in February and securities regulators are investigating the company and its claims about customer interest in its vehicles. Now it appears the company may not have enough money to manufacture the trucks it promised. This is bad news for Lordstown’s workers as well as its backers, which include big names like G.M.